ImageSpotlight: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

You may recall that in 2014 I wrote a blog post about “Making Hummingbird Backgrounds.” I’d actually be surprised if you remember that but you can enter those terms in the search tab if you care to refresh your memory. Anyway, two years later and those backgrounds are still in use. For the past two weeks, I’ve had female and juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds but today, the male showed up. While I like the females and juveniles, it is the male with its iridescent gorget that gets photographers excited. Those brilliant colors add a dash of pop to the images.

To capture this photo, I used a 5 flash setup. Each flash was set at 1/16 power and placed in various positions to light the bird. I had one dedicated flash aimed at the background and 4 at the hummingbird. My camera (Canon 7D MkII) was set to Manual mode, ISO 200, f18, 1/250. I used a 70-200/2.8 with 1.4x converter. Because hummingbirds drink, move back and hover, then drink again, I prefocused on a spot where I anticipated the birds would hover. Each time the birds hovered, I pressed the shutter button. I’m looking to improve this image by adding an additional flash and incorporating a flower if I can find a suitable one at a nursery since there are no natural blooms around my home.

Until then, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: Willet with Prey

Last year I made a voyage to South Florida and came away with some spectacular photos. This summer I returned once again with the hopes that I would find terns and skimmers on their breeding nests. I was a bit pessimistic, though, knowing that the area had been hit by tropical storms. Unfortunately, the area where I was photographing was hit too hard and none of the nests survived. I trekked a couple miles along the coast trying to find some survivors but it was a desolate sight. Such is the way of the wild but those birds will nest again and hopefully, next year mother nature will be more merciful.

Although I did not find any nesting birds walking along the beach, I did come across a Willet probing for prey. While fairly common in some areas, they have seen declining numbers due to a decrease in possible nesting sights attributed to coastal development in California. While wildlife is equipped to survive natural disasters, those due to man can have long-term harmful consequences. I’m not one of those who thinks you have to choose a side between man and wildlife. On the contrary, life is about man and wildlife living together. After all, man’s first home was in a garden. We do, however, have to remember to respect each other.

Willet. Canon 7DMkII | ef 500/4.5 + 1.4x | ISO 1250 | f 6.3 | 1/5000

Willet. Canon 7DMkII | ef 500/4.5 + 1.4x | ISO 1250 | f 6.3 | 1/5000

I hung out with this willet for about half an hour watching him probe the sand and scurry through the water. There wasn’t a soul around other than the two of us and soon the willet would move on leaving me alone. So, I sat back and listened to the waves for a bit before calling it an evening…and what an evening it was.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting…KEVIN

 

 

ImageSpotlight: Black-Crested Titmouse

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Black-crested Titmouse.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm

I returned to South Texas last December and visited my favorite photographic ranch, the Santa Clara, owned by Dr. Beto Gutierrez. I had the good fortune of photographing there the last year before I moved out of state so I know how special this ranch is for photographers. Dr. Gutierrez has poured his passion into making this the prime destination for anyone wanting to photograph the gems of South Texas. This Black Crested Titmouse came to have a drink and I was able to capture this wonderful reflection. The raised crest made this one extra special.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: Northern Bobwhite Quail

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Northern Bobwhite Quail.  Canon 7D MkII | Canon 70-200/2.8 + 1.4x | ISO 1600 | f7.1

 

What a way to end 2015. I found myself back in South Texas on the Santa Clara ranch and once again, that ranch did not disappoint. I still haven’t viewed all of the photographs as I’ve not downloaded all of them yet; however, I really enjoyed the reflection of these 3 northern bobwhite quail and just had to share. I cropped this to a panoramic format to emphasize the reflection in the pond. While the original format looks nice, I think the panorama is a better portrayal.

Speaking of reflections, as you look back on your 2015, I hope that you accomplished all of your personal and photographic goals. As you look toward 2016, challenge yourself to stretch your photography skills. Whether that is to learn a new technique, travel to a new destination, or focus on that nemesis subject, may 2016 be your year.

Until next year…good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

Backyard Photo Safari

People are funny. I think most of us are guilty of living by the old adage of “the grass is always greener”. Fishermen are always thinking that the big fish is around the next creek; while hunters obviously seem to think the bucks are bigger on the neighboring ranch or they wouldn’t put their hunting blinds right on the fence line. And photographers…well, our next great image is just a photo safari away. Even if we are not booking flights to some remote destination, how many of us drive for hours to photograph a subject, completely overlooking the abundance of photographic gems to be had in our own backyard? Too often I’ve been guilty of this so I now make a conscious choice to regularly photograph at home. I’m not saying I never drive long distances anymore, or that I don’t go on photographic ventures in distant places. I do and hopefully will always be able to do so, but as I just stated there are many photographic opportunities to enjoy at home. Granted, my current backyard is a little under 2 acres, whereas my former backyard was a small suburban lot. Honestly, that really doesn’t matter. Once I made a deliberate effort, I was able to capture some great images at both homes. The thing I hope you take away from the photos I share in this post is this…great images can be captured anywhere. All you have to do is realize how green the grass is at your own home…so put away the computer, turn off the t.v., and go discover the wilderness on your backyard photo safari. You’ll be glad you did!

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. — KEVIN

The images below are just a small sample from my current backyard. Click on the images for a better view.

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Downy Woodpecker. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f8 | ISO320

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Carolina Chickadee. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f5.6 | ISO640

White-breasted Nuthatch. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | Canon 580ex fill flash at -2 FEC

White-breasted Nuthatch. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | Canon 580ex fill flash at -2 FEC

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | ISO 200 | 70-200/2.8

Pine Warbler.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm | f7.1 | ISO 800

Pine Warbler. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm | f7.1 | ISO 800

Tufted Titmouse. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm |f7.1 | ISO 800

Tufted Titmouse. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm |f7.1 | ISO 800

Eastern Phoebe.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f7.1 |ISO 800

Eastern Phoebe. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f7.1 |ISO 800

The images below are from my old suburban backyard in Texas, taken by myself or one of my children.

Black-crested Titmouse. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f 5.6 | ISO 200

Black-crested Titmouse. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f 5.6 | ISO 200

Yellow Sunflower: Flowering Plants Category.

Yellow Sunflower: Flowering Plants Category.

Canon 7D | 50/1.8 @ f18 | 30 sec exposure | ISO 200

Canon 7D | 50/1.8 @ f18 | 30 sec exposure | ISO 200

Butterfly. Canon 1DMkII | 135/2.0 + extension tube

Butterfly. Canon 1DMkII | 135/2.0 + extension tube

House Sparrow. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f5 | ISO 200

House Sparrow. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f5 | ISO 200

White-winged Dove. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f 6.3 | ISO 200

White-winged Dove. Canon 1DsMkII | 500/4.5 | f 6.3 | ISO 200

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ImageSpotlight: More Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | ISO 400 | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | f14 | 1/160

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | ISO 400 | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | f14 | 1/160

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | ISO 400 | f14 | 1/160

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | ISO 400 | f14 | 1/160

I’ll keep this post short. I do not know how much longer these hummingbirds will be here before migrating but I suspect a week or two at most. I think the males have already migrated as I’ve seen nothing but females at my feeder. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying them and working on my setups to improve my hummingbird photography. These were today’s best so I thought I’d share with everyone. Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | ISO 400 | f14 | 1/160

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Canon 7D | 70-200/2.8 @ 200mm | ISO 400 | f14 | 1/160

ImageSpotlight: Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 @ f7.1 | ISO 400 | 1/2000

Great Kiskadee. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 @ f7.1 | ISO 400 | 1/2000

Here is another image from my recent visit to South Texas. I frequented one of my old shooting locations (Estero Llano Grande State Park), where I captured the dueling ducks in a prior post. As I was surveying one particular pond from an observation deck, this kiskadee landed on a log in front of me, quickly swooped down on the water, snagged a frog, and flew off. It was great action but I did not act quick enough. A few minutes later he would return and this time I would be ready.

How I got the shot:

In order to get this shot, I needed a fast shutter speed and a decent depth of field. I typically shoot at around f7.1 to f8 for my wildlife/bird images, adjusting up or down depending on the conditions. I shoot a Canon 7D and while I will bump the ISO to 640 or 800 on occasion, I do not like to go above ISO400, which is the setting I was using on this day because I had great light. Given the lighting conditions, I could achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000 or better with my desired f-stop and ISO. With the bird surveying the pond from its perch, I had to make a decision as to where I believed his flight path would be once he took off. I noticed he was scanning the pond to his right, which was where he had snagged a frog earlier. I focused my image on the bird, switched the lens to manual mode, and recomposed the shot to the right (no bird in the image). How far to the right is a function of lady luck as I’ve often done this and had missing body parts. Once recomposed, I put my finger on the shutter. When the bird moved, I pressed and held the shutter down. To my good fortune, this was the result.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN